Kieran Moore – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (Hey! That’s catchy!), and so I thought I’d deviate slightly from my usual top 10 format of picking one Muppet performer to highlight and go for something festive instead. Of course, Muppets are synonymous with the Holidays and there is so much to choose from. Furthermore, could I get away with filling the top 10 with nothing but songs from A Christmas Together with John Denver and The Muppets? I figured not, so in a bid to make the task more manageable I chose my 10 favorite Muppet/Henson Christmas offerings and then picked my favorite song from each. The order was chosen according to how much I liked the songs not the specials they’re from.
One note that might be controversial – I haven’t included anything from Sesame Street. First, there’s probably enough material for it to be a separate list and second, as I’ve stated before Sesame Street has hardly ever been shown here in the UK so I’m very unfamiliar with most of the specials I could have picked from. I’d urge someone else to make a Sesame Street list of their own if they wish.
So as I hear those sleigh bells ringing (Hey! That’s catchy!) I guess I’d better get on with it.
10. “Legend of the Winter Berry” from A Berry Bear Christmas – Bear
First let me just say that I like this song way more than its position would suggest. I’ve always been a big fan of Bear in The Big Blue House and this song shows just why. Not only is it well written with a nod to some of those great Medieval Christmas songs, but it’s performed brilliantly by Noel MacNeal (Bear just has such a warm tone to his voice and I could watch the puppetry for hours). It also has a great non-denominational message of sharing and goodwill to others that’s perfect for this time of year whether you celebrate a religious festival or not. I think this is fab.
9. “Everyone Matters” from It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie – Gonzo and Kermit
If there’s one thing that you’ll learn from this chart is that when it comes to Christmas I’m a big old softie. I blame the Muppets as they really get the spirit and heart of the holidays. This is actually a really pretty song and anything that includes a heartfelt Gonzo gets an extra tick in my book, but its low placing is really down to the maudlin nature of the first verse and chorus. It’s hard to add it to a Christmas playlist full of merry songs. Although Everyone Matters was the obvious choice from this special I very nearly picked the whole of the Moulin Scrooge sequence as I must admit it’s the highlight of the whole special for me and as funny as any other Muppet parody I’ve seen.
8. “There’s A Promise” from “The Bells of Fraggle Rock” – The Fraggles
Quite frankly anything from Fraggle Rock that includes Cantus gets a big thumbs up from me and this is no exception. This song is another one that sounds so Christmassy without having anything to do with the holiday at all. This would not sound out of place on any festive album or at a carol concert. As much as I like “Pass it On,” I wish they had used this song in A Muppet Family Christmas instead as I think it would have achieved classic status by now. The word for this song is joyous – pure and simple.
7. “A Red and Green Christmas” from The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas – Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
I included this song in my countdown for Eric Jacobson and my love for it hasn’t waned. This was always the standout song from “A Green and Red Christmas” in my opinion. I love songs that have two tunes that come together in counterpoint and this is my absolute favorite. It’s another one that I feel deserves to be better known to a wider audience than just us Muppet fans. I really like the way this song portrays the Kermit/Piggy relationship – it’s cute without pushing it too far and has a little bit of tension thrown in for good measure. It also includes a spoken epilogue where Kermit dodges a kiss under the mistletoe that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Jim-era record. Perfect.
6. “Together at Christmas” from The Christmas Toy – Cast
I have a vague recollection of watching this special as a kid (and I definitely remember the spin off series), but my real knowledge of this song comes from A Muppet Family Christmas. I think it works perfectly there as a way to round off the Annual Carol Sing. I took the plunge this year and finally bought The Christmas Toy on DVD. I haven’t watched it yet, but it will be added to my annual marathon of A Muppet Family Christmas and Emmet Otter and watched in the next few days. I feel like a broken record, but again, this song should be so much better known than it is. I guess “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” covers some of the same ground, but surely there’s room for both. For the past few years the song’s message has resonated with me even more as I now have an empty seat at my family Christmas table.
5. “I Wish I Could Be Santa Claus” from A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa – Gonzo and Fozzie
This is the second heartfelt Gonzo duet on this list and in my humble opinion this is much better (not that the other one is bad). Paul Williams is at his best here. It seems that this song’s popularity might just have outstripped that of the special itself as there are several cover versions on YouTube. As I mentioned earlier for “There’s a Promise,” this song could be performed to an audience with no knowledge of its origins and would work just fine. As with “A Red and Green Christmas,” this song appeared on my Top 10 Eric Jacobson Songs list and I really do think it’s one of his best musical moments. Dave Goelz is also on top form, but that goes without saying.
4. “Bless Us All” from The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Cratchit Family
Remember when I said that Christmas turns me into a sap? Here’s exhibit A. There are such a slew of great songs in The Muppet Christmas Carol that it would be easier to list the ones that weren’t contenders for this slot. However, Robin’s performance here (and let’s not forget Jerry Nelson as well) is so touching that I just couldn’t pick anything else. This is the first song on this list that’s brought me to tears (and it won’t be the last) and I just think it’s incredibly special. Coming shortly after the loss of both Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, there’s real sense of heart about this movie that I don’t know if the Muppets have ever replicated to such an extent. There’s a sadness and reverence to the film, yet it’s done with such joy and love that it just exudes the holidays for me. I’m getting emotional just writing this and listening to the song. Bless Us All indeed.
3. “When the River Meets the Sea” from Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas – Alice and Emmet Otter
Paul Williams strikes again! We’re 3 songs into the top 5 and he’s written all of them so far! I don’t actually know if there are words to describe how immensely beautiful this song is. To get poetic, it speaks to the soul; it reaches into the darkest corner of the heart and makes it light. It rises and swells yet remains soft and still. This is about as perfect as a song can get (and yet it’s still only number 3!). The song doesn’t reference Christmas at all other than maybe an oblique reference to a newborn baby and yet it feels just about as seasonal and spiritual as any other song you’ll hear this holiday season.
2. “The Annual Carol Sing” from A Muppet Family Christmas – Cast
A Muppet Family Christmas is my favorite Muppet Christmas special and I’m lucky enough to have an unedited UK video copy. Any song that counts amongst its soloists Big Bird, Gonzo, Scooter, Count von Count and Janice is always going to rank highly on a list I write. This jolly jaunt through just about every decent Christmas song and carol ever written is the perfect way to end the ultimate Muppet special. Both upbeat and merry and soulful and sweet in equal measure this is performed brilliantly by all concerned. I wish I was Gerry Parkes at that moment. How amazing would that have been? As already mentioned, it finishes appropriately with “Together at Christmas,” which is perfect not just for being a Muppets original song, but for basically being the mission statement of the whole show.
1. “The Christmas Wish” from John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together – Kermit The Frog
It kills me that I wasn’t able to include “Silent Night” from this album on the list, but rules are rules. This is the perfect Christmas song to me (and I’ve found the perfect video to accompany this chart to go with it so make sure you click on the link). This is probably my favorite Christmas song ever. Period. Not just Muppet Christmas song, but out of all the Christmas songs that exist this is the ultimate one in my humble opinion. I don’t know whether this song matches up to my ethos concerning the holiday season or if my ethos concerning the holiday season was shaped by this song, but either way they match completely. Jim is great here as Kermit. We know from countless other songs that he is able to imbue Kermit with such heart and this was never more in evidence than here. I’m not afraid to admit that this song has brought me to tears on several occasions including one memorable time when I was singing along with it in the car on the way to pick up a Christmas tree. This song just fills me with the spirit of the season and I have such wonderful memories around it.
And I guess that’s what The Muppets do to me every Christmas. I can’t think of any other group of characters that get Christmas like the Muppets do. To me they are Christmas. They’re family, they’re comfort and joy, they’re merriment, they’re spirituality and above all they’re heart. I would like to say a huge thanks to everyone who has ever been involved in a Muppet Christmas production, whether that is as a member of the cast or behind the scenes. Every year you make Christmas that little bit more special. Though it’s been said many times, many ways Merry Christmas to you. (Hey! That’s catchy!)
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org